Church Innovation

Did you know that the ELCA has an Innovation department? Thanks to a Lilly Foundation Grant, there are congregations around the country involved in the Lead Initiative Project. Churches in the project are invited to get creative and be innovative in ministry. The week, these congregations will gather at my church Bethlehem Lutheran Church – Twin Cities and share what they tried and learned. I will be leading them through a storytelling workshop, and I am excited to learn more about them!

I bet you know that the church has always been reinventing itself. Church buildings have life spans. The demographics or make up of a church can change over time. Community can mean different things to people. So church has to be innovative and creative, changing and evolving in order to meet the needs of today’s people. This doesn’t mean we lose our traditions or values. We just have to experiment for the sake of the gospel. We are God’s people – people who try.

In 2017, I started this blog to find congregations or organizations who were being creative and experimenting with ministry. I was lucky to find almost 50 to share their passions and stories with me. In the interview, I asked only three questions: What is it the church is doing? Why is it important inside and outside the walls of the congregation? What Bible story, verse, or idea undergirds the ministry or work? Below there are almost 50 interviews from this blog that are pertinent in this post-pandemic ministry. Check them out, and be encouraged:

  1. Fueling Passion: One church rearranged old library space to focus on mission partners. They provide tours, learning times, and hand’s on projects. (Acts 1:8)
  2. Football Anyone? This church is all about connecting ministry to community through football and food. (Exodus 16)
  3. Worship Reordered: This congregation wanted to meet the needs of families so they reordered worship. (Luke 11:9)
  4. 100 Members: 3000 Meals: The name of this blog post says it all. (John 21:17)
  5. A Third Space: Jesus met people not just in the temple. Meeting people where they are is creating a third space for ministry to happen. (Matthew 9:9-13)
  6. Worship in a Box: This congregation is serious about helping kids learn to worship. (Ephesians 4:4-5)
  7. Moving Past Membership: Is membership important? What about transient communities? (Ephesians 4:4-5)
  8. Death 101: How to talk to kids about death and Good Friday. (Jesus dies on the cross.)
  9. Why not change? Church change is hared, but it is a necessary movement. (Luke 15)
  10. Church Growth. Starts Inside Out: Churches don’t grow from a marketing campaign but from the inside out. (Jesus teaching in the temple)
  11. Think Process not Programs: Kids are part of the church today, and they need to know the ins and outs of worship. (Exodus 12:25-27)
  12. Build One Thing: Figure out what your church can do, and do it well! It only takes one thing. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
  13. Transformative Healing: Churches today have to be about reconciliation, relearning invitation, and willing to have honest conversations. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
  14. Try Something New: Jesus calls the disciples as a reminder to be brave. We can be brave, too, as we try new things. (Mark 1)
  15. Socially Justice Minded: Try partnering with a church different than yours to learn from each other and practice welcoming people. (Amos 5)
  16. Church Farm: This church uses the ancient pattern of God first and then neighbor with their ministry. (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)
  17. Indoor Playground Church: Let the children come and play, come and learn about Jesus (if they want to), and come and rest. (Matthew 19)
  18. New Patterns for Ministry: As extended family of Jesus, the church doesn’t always do extended family well. New mission ideas need to be used like lifting lay leaders, messy church, and being sent out. (Luke 4)
  19. Collaborative Ministry: Collaboration is the future of the church in healing this world together. (Ephesians 2:13-14)
  20. Staycation Storytelling: Have a staycation party at church and swap stories. (John 20)
  21. Hospitality Rhythms: Practice parking lot ministry as a sign of hospitality. (Luke 10:38-42)
  22. Becoming Visible: It’s hard to welcome people into church if people don’t know the church building exists. (Isaiah 43:19)
  23. Be Compassionate: It’s not about growing the membership, but the being compassionate neighbors. (Luke 15)
  24. Meeting Your Neighbors: This church is about modeling God’s deep love and a commitment to the neighborhood. (Matthew 18:20)
  25. Start With What You Have: It’s just that! Start with your people, an idea, and grow from there! (Exodus 16)
  26. Radical Welcome. Radical Love: Churches are to show a radical welcome and give radical love. (Hebrews 13:2)
  27. One Step Forward; Two Steps Back: Help people practice faith on Sundays to be ready to use it on Mondays. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
  28. Story Stick Paraments: Use liturgical art to change paraments or interactive art pieces to share stories. (Ephesians 4:32)
  29. Public Spaces Ministry: Holy moments can happen anywhere even in public spaces. (Paul’s missionary journeys)
  30. A Lenten Exploration: Take some time to explore your community or neighborhood during lent. Expand worldviews. (John 4)
  31. Maundy Thursday, Dinner Church: Jesus ate with the disciples, we can eat together, too! Worship doesn’t have to happen in the sanctuary, we can worship around tables, too! (Last Supper)
  32. Starbucks, Students, and Sundays: Kids love to gather over coffee and conversation. But what they really find is community. (Luke 24:13-35)
  33. Storytelling Faith5: If you don’t know about Faith5, check it out here.
  34. Kids Leading Worship: Kids are more than performers. They are faithfully formed to be leaders in the church. (Jeremiah 1:4-9)
  35. Finding Purpose: Gone are the days, “Build it and they will come.” We are now about relationships and community. (Luke 10:27 & Matthew 28:19-20)
  36. Growing Worship Outdoors: This church has no church building. They worship outside all year long. (Genesis 1 & Job 38:25-27)
  37. A Storytelling Sunday: We are called to be stewards of God’s story, so how can we share it? (Matthew 28)
  38. Faith@Home or @Go: Finding time as a family to talk about faith can be hard. Find ways for your families to connect in the car. (Psalm 78)
  39. The Little Little’s Blessing: Ever try to stake a fully grown tomato plant? It’s easier when the plant is young. Same is true in teaching faith. (Proverbs 22:6)
  40. Power of a Donut Box: Never stop reaching out to your families. Do whatever it takes. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
  41. Advent Devotions: Do you need family devos for Advent? (Free!)
  42. For the Love of Puppets: Use your passion to drive your ministry. (Matthew 18:4)
  43. More Than Just Books: Static rooms in your church building can be revamped to meet the needs of your community or neighborhood. (John 1:14)
  44. Lent: Check out these 5 new things you can do during the season of lent. (Try new things!)
  45. The Pinterest Pastor: Be interactive in your preaching. Don’t forget that congregants are theologians, too! (Check out the parables of Jesus.)
  46. A Food Labyrinth: Food ministry is important to most churches, and a labyrinth is a way to practice prayer and blessing. Put them together, and you get a food labyrinth! (Jesus prayed.)
  47. Everyday Bible Conversations: It seems like Bible learning stops after confirmation. Consider trying bite-size Bible conversations to make it easy for Adults.
  48. There’s a Group for That? A one size fits all youth groups is not for every student. Why not build smaller groups around the interests of the students?

Want to be part of the next 50 interviews? I would love to continue this work of sharing the amazing and innovative work the church is doing. If you are interested, please email me at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s